Towards a “Real Republic”…
Michael D Higgins, born 18 April 1941, the ninth President of Ireland
Our arts celebrate the people talking, singing, dancing and ultimately communing with each other. This is what James Connolly meant when he said that: “Ireland without her people means nothing to me”. Connolly took pride in the past but, of course, felt that those who excessively worshipped that past were sometimes seeking to escape from the struggle and challenge of the present. He believed that Ireland was a work in progress, a country still to be fully imagined and invented – and that the future was exhilarating precisely in the sense that it was not fully knowable, measurable.
The demands and the rewards of building a real and inclusive Republic in its fullest sense remains as a challenge for us all, but it is one we should embrace together.
Michael D Higgins is the newly elected ninth president of Ireland and, like many, I think he will do a fine fine job, I wish him well.
He has always been an outspoken man, a passionate socialist who has worked for the rights of the downtrodden, a human rights activist, a poet, a feminist, a philosopher, a fierce critic of irelands involvement in the illegal war in iraq (irish state was officially “neutral”, but that didnt stop the govt), a gaeilgoir (irish speaker), a lover of the arts and culture of Ireland, a man of imagination and deep vision. As Diarmaid Ferriter (professor of modern history at University College Dublin) said, it was striking that Ireland had elected a politician who for decades had been “a thorn in the side of the establishment” — and now was the official face of Ireland. He said Higgins’ triumph reflected voter anger at right-wing politicians who had brought Ireland to the brink of bankruptcy.
To many the somewhat surprising theme of the recent discourse he has opened up over the last year is that of the “Real Republic“, it seems this has been a topic he has pondered all his life and now he is taking it to the national stage, to get us Irish to think about what it means, if it has been arrived at yet (no in his opinion) and how we might get to that better place he dreams of. Before being inaugerated he spent some time alone to “pause and reflect” in the “Connolly Room” before taking office.
Its interesting to ponder where his preoccupation has arrived from; Despite the claim that he is a Galway man, he was actually born in Limerick, but due to poverty sent out aged 5 to do his “rearing” in county Clare… This led to a difficult childhood, which was as a direct result of his father being treated badly due to the fact that he fought for the republican side during the Irish civil war after having being number 2 in the Cork brigade of the IRA in the Irish war of independence. He wrote a poem 2o years ago “Betrayel” (listen to him read it here) discussing his fathers treatment in “modern Ireland” and spoke candidly, acocompanied hand in hand by his wife Sabina Coyne, on RTE’s Miriam meets (13.50 – 19.30 minutes) in 2010 about his feelings about the ill treatment his father suffered due to the vision of the “Republic” he fought for, temporarily created but that was killed off by the emergence of the Irish Free State. Its a complicated topic, there are many different takes on the topic, but one things should be very interesting; to see how this discourse unfolds over the following seven years.
The 4 goals of Michael D’s seven year mission:
- The real republic
- Inclussive citizenship
- Creative society
- Ireland home and abroad
Irish Times: Higgins urges hope, courage | Vision of a new Ireland | A thinker unafraid to speak his mind | Full text of President’s inaugural speech | President will bring ‘nobility of spirit’ to office | Higgins declared president elect with one million votes | International congratulations for Higgins | Higgins pledges presidency of transformation in speech | Higgins’s archive speaks volumes for his passion Other Reports: Michael D Higgins inaugurated as President (RTE) | ‘We need to think about an entirely different kind of society’ (politico.ie) | A President for all the people (Irish Independent) | Michael D’s call to arms for a bright, confident and successful future (Irish Independent) | Poet, rights activist Michael Higgins wins Irish presidency (Associated Press) | The most passionate man in Irish politics (Hot Press 2004) Other Links: wikipedia | Facebook election page | Vincent Browne show: eve of Michael D’s inauguration Radio Interviews: Miriam Meets… Miriam O Callaghan with Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina Coyne | Today FM’s Ray D’Arcy Show | Ryan Tubridy interviews Michael D Higgins Videos (see below) The Real Republic: Renewing the Republic: Michael D. Higgins’ book (view inside here on Amazon)| Republic lost its way, laments new Irish President (Belfast Telegraph) | Time for a real republic: President Michael D Higgins (Eolas Magazine) | Renewing the Republic (Irish Times series) | President calls for an inclusive republic (Irish Echo) | A Presidency With Enormous Potential (The Irish Republic-blog)
Profile: President Michael D Higgins
Born: Limerick (18 April 1941)
- Ballycare National School, County Clare
- St Flannan’s College, Ennis
- Clerk in ESB
- Mature student at University College Galway (aged 20)
- Political science and sociology lecturer at University
- College Galway
- Visiting Professor at the Southern Illinois University
- President of University College Galway Students’ Union (1964 to 1965)
- Unsuccessful in 1969 and 1973 general elections
- Appointed to the Seanad by Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (1973-1977) and re-joined on NUI Maynooth panel (1982-1987)
- Galway county councillor (1974-1993)
- Mayor of Galway (1982-1983 and 1991-1992)
- Galway West TD (1981-1982 and 1987-2011)
- Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (1993-1997)
- President of Labour Party
This Image from the Times gives you a good idea of what the poet is talking about:
President Elect Michael D Higgins Acceptance Speech
Michael D Higgins making his last speech in the Dail (25 January 2011, transcript on Politico.ie)
Michael D Higgins Speech to Tom Johnson Summer School (Pt 1/6)
And a few funnies:
Gift Grub: Tonight with Vincent Browne – Marty and Michael D (25/10/11)
Remembering the man and his long struggle for a fairer world:
Michael D Higgins Career Montage
The New Irish President: Michael D Higgins
(a series of photos, arts, peace prizes, poetry reading at electric picnic, speaking up against the illegal war in Iraq, hunger strike against US intervention in Niceragua)
Michael D returns over the gate to his old home in East Clare, where he lived since he was 5, part of his “fractured life”
From the archives of January 2010, Miriam O Callaghan interviews Michael D Higgins, now President-elect, and his wife Sabina Coyne, the two held hands throughout a radio interview with her in 2010. Miriam Meets
13.50 – 19.30 on michael his childhood, his fathers situation…
His father Johhny Higgins (died 1964) was 1 of 1o, in the early 1920´s was the number 2 in the Cork brigade of the IRA (Irish Republican Army). He fought in the war of independence and on the republican side in the civil war, due to being on the loosing side of the war he was ill treated long after and Michael has thought much on that over the last few decades. Due to poverty Michael D and his little brother were sent from the family home, then in Limerick, across the Shannon to a little shack in East Clare, he was only 5 years old at the time, to live in with his fathers brother and sister. Michael´s uncle fought on the free state side during the war, his sister was in cumman na mban, Michael recalls seeing a blue shirt in the house (the symbol of the free state army). His mother was from Liscarrol, county Cork. Michale D was inspired by Sean O’Casey, and talks about “a fractured life”. Michael D claims that new state stole the values from people like his parents, that people are revising history and not recognizing what the original values of “republicans” battled for, not acknoldging what people went through…
Remembering his father:
Michael D Higgins wrote a book of poetry in 1990 called “The Betrayal“, Poetry reading and commentry on his fathers life. Here is an audio recording of Michael D reading from it:
Michael D Higgins, the lost interview:
About two years ago, I interviewed Michael D Higgins in his home about his poetry and got him to read a couple of my favourites. I stumbled across the recording again today and decided to upload it to youtube. The first video starts with a poem called The Betrayal, about his father’s death and is followed by him speaking about writing the poem and then introducing another poem about the Galway Races which is in part 2 of the video.
A few photos of the aul fellow:
Strike on Here – Equal pay for women and men, early 70′s ?
Michael D fasting in front of US embassy for Nicaragua, 1983
Michael D opposing Irelands involvement in the Iraq war, 2004